Jean Wallen Hannah

Sept 1928 ~ Dec 2019

About the Service

No formal services will be held

Jean Wallen Hannah graduated high school in Chicago and then attended Wooster College in Ohio, earning a BA degree in the German Language.  After graduating, she returned to Chicago and earned a Master’s Degree in German from Northwestern University.  Jean then moved to Chelan, Washington to begin a decades-long career in teaching.  She would meet the love of her life, John Hannah, while visiting a close friend in Ceres, California.  They were married in 1953.  The Hannahs settled in Modesto where Jean taught German, English Masterpieces, and Latin for many years at Downey High School, where she was a master teacher, until she retired in 1987.  Jean was also involved in starting the AFS (American Field Service) Exchange Program in Modesto.

Many of Jean’s high school students and colleagues recall her enthusiasm and tireless work ethic, often going above and beyond, to accommodate the needs of her pupils. Her students would sometimes gather at her home to bake German delicacies around the holidays.  She kept in close contact with former students years after graduation.  Jean was an advocate for literacy and belonged to the early Friends of Modesto Library.  In her retirement, she volunteered with Stanislaus Reads and tutored at the county jail.

Jean was a devoted wife who loved traveling, reading and spending time with her husband, two step-children, and three grandchildren at their home in Modesto and a cabin in Chain Lakes, Washington.  She played the French horn, was an accomplished pianist and spoke several languages.  Most of all, she enjoyed being home with her husband and her pets.

She will always be remembered for her intelligence, abundance of energy and dedication to education and family.


Remembrances

  1. I loved Jean like a second mother. She was so “Witty and Pretty and Bright.” from West Side Story; but she was mostly “Loverly” from My Fair Lady.
    She was so kind and loving and energetic and enthusiastic, which made her the great teacher she was.
    And a Great friend of the family. When we got together with Jean and John, there were always Great stories with Big Laughs and great political discussions and all varieties of thoughts on literature, current events and poetry…..John’s favorite line from a poem was “I wake to sleep and I take my waking slow.” but when he said it, it was with a wry twinkle in his eye…denoting to me that he was not totally serious.
    A big part of our life has now gone missing…
    a big part of my heart has gone with it. Love Dan

  2. I was in Frau Hannah’s German class all four years at Downey High. Although I had quite a few teachers at Downey whom I loved, she was definitely at the top. The advanced students established a close, personal relationship with her which extended beyond the classroom and beyond graduation. She was always warmly inviting to us at her lovely home in Ceres. She inspired me to go on to major in German in college, although my path changed and I ended up in elementary education. I eventually lost touch with the shining light that is/was Jean Hannah but I have never forgotten her. My condolences to her family. We have all lost one of the great ones.

  3. Two generations of Grants profited from Jean’s excellent teaching. We want her family to know how much she was appreciated.

  4. Our daughters were in Frau Hanna’s German class at Downey High School. My husband and I were also privileged to work with her as Volunteers for AFS Intercultural Programs.
    We appreciated her dedication to her teaching and her enjoyment in watching her students learn German and the exchange students learn English.

    My husband, Ed Howard, continues on the journey of those with Alzheimer’s and he Jean were in the same facility for about a year. I am happy to know that she is able to be at rest and free now.

    To her family: I hope you know that many thought highly of Jean and send you our good thoughts and love at this time.

  5. Frau Hanna, as her German students called her, was the stand out tops of my high school teachers. In the four years I studied in her German language class,she made a lasting impression on me through her kind and gentle ways. I especially recall being in her class when the announcement came that President Kennedy had been assassinated. Completely shattered, she went to the rear of the classroom, put her head down on the desk and cried. We found out that day that teachers are people, too. (DHS Class of 1965)

  6. It was my pleasure and honor to be a colleague of Jean’s at Downey High School where I, too, taught English (Junior year–American Literature )as a member of the department she chaired so very, very well. Later on, during my professorship at CSU Stanislaus, we visited rather often and she convinced me to become a board member of Modesto Friends of the Library (never an easy person to hear the word “no”). I will always remember her enthusiasm for music, literature, thoughtful analysis, and laughter. She was a truly splendid woman!

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